The Instigator
Con (against)
7 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
10 Points

Can We Be Good Without God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/4/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,435 times Debate No: 17764
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (3)




1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
C. Therefore God exists

We should first detail some definitions, starting with God which means an all powerful perfectly good creator of the world. By "objective" I mean independent of peoples opinion and by "subjective" I mean dependant on peoples opinions. By moral value I mean, the worth of a person or action, whether it is good or bad. When mentioning moral duty I am referring to our obligation to act in a certain way, whether that action is right or wrong.

For example it is good or bad no matter what people think about it, for instance the holocaust was wrong even if the Nazi's had won the war and brainwashed everyone to say the holocaust was right; it still would be wrong.

It is important at this point to show a distinction between values and duties, for example it would be good for one to become a cancer researcher but one is not morally obligated to do so.

In the past moral values have been based in God being the highest good. However if God does not exist, then what is the basis for moral values? Why would we the think that human beings have moral worth?

Lets now consider moral duties. It has been though in the past that moral duty sprung from Gods commandments. If God does not exist why think we have any moral obligations to do anything? If there is no moral law giver then there is no objective moral law that we must obey.

Most of us agree that moral objectives and duties exist, for example we all have a duty to be tolerant, open minded and loving. Furthermore it is objectively wrong for the government to round up all homosexuals or atheists and throw them into a concentration camp, much like Nazi Germany did.

So the logical conclusions is simply and answer of we cannot truly be good without God; but if we can in some measure be good, then it follows that God does exist.


The resolution is whether atheists can have an objective moral foundation without invoking a theistic entity.

-Con Case-

I just have to pose a quick question to Con about the objectivity of God's morality. Namely, is there moral reasoning behind God's commandments or are they moral simply because He commanded them?

-Pro Case-

1. Rules don't require a transcendent rule giver.

Take the law of non-contradiction. In fact, any introductory logic course will lay forth a plethora of rules and fallacies governing logical discourse. Obviously, these rules were not passed on by a divine entity, but can rather achieve the label of objectivity by discovery through human minds. As humans with a developed mind we are capable of reasoning about our surroundings and drawing inferences.

2. Virtually every moral system concerns the issue of "well-being" of conscious beings.

As innocuous as this statement is, it has attracted a lot of controversy. Despite its broadness, certain moral facts can immediately be deduced (i.e. do not throw battery acid at children's faces) and a number of other "common sense" moral conclusions. Moreover, the issue of well-being is only a jumping off point for moral discourse. The issue of how well-being is best achieved is a different debate, but I firmly believe that the notion of well-being is the only intelligible moral starting point for a moral framework. Clearly, atheists and theists hold different views about the true nature of "well being" but this is in part due to differences in concepts concerning reality. Both theistic and atheistic frameworks virtually always tie back to the issue of the "betterment" of conscious beings, although there is debate as to how far we should extend this circle, as explained in Peter Singer's "The Expanding Circle." At least from my own non-theistic perspective, morality does not exist as a platonic form or have transcendent value. It exists out of an objective necessity and only applies in a universe with conscious beings capable of a range of conscious states from suffering to joy. There are objectively right and wrong answers in terms of where to go from our jumping off point.

3. Harris' "Bad World"

Some of my arguments are based on Sam Harris' argument that objective morality can exist without God. In making his points, Harris presents the viewer with a thought experiment brought up in his book The Moral Landscape, and at least two of his lectures [1][2]. In the experiment, Harris asks the reader to consider a universe where every conscious being suffers immensely for a long period of time. Harris then implores the viewer to make a definitive value judgment about this world, and then contrasts it with its antithesis. From here Harris is able to provide a scale to which acts can be judged by. Acts that push the scale towards greater suffering are bad and vice versa.


Debate Round No. 1


Christosapologia forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for the extension, it was either finish my assignment or complete this debate...

>>I just have to pose a quick question to Con about the objectivity of God's morality. Namely, is there moral reasoning behind God's commandments or are they moral simply because He commanded them?<<

It is interesting you posed the Euthyphro Dilemma, I don't need to refute the two horns of the dilemma because the dilemma presents a false one: There is a third alternative, namely, God wills something because He is good. What do I mean by that? I mean that God's own nature is the standard of goodness, and His commandments to us are His expressions of His nature. In short, our moral duties are determined by the commands of a just and loving God.

So moral values are not independent of God because God's own character defines what is good. His nature is the moral standard defining good and bad. His commands necessarily reflect His moral nature. Therefore they are not arbitrary.

If one was to pose the question "if God commands to abuse our children, are we obligated to do so?" The question is a false one, its like asking "if there is a square circle, would the area be a square of one of its sides.

>>Take the law of non-contradiction<<

Slightly off topic, however the law of non contradiction also requires a transcendental mind. Does this particular law apply in all places in all times? Of course, its a concept and concepts require minds, concepts that transcend our minds require a transcendent mind.

>> "betterment" of conscious beings<<

How do you know that betterment is good, what one group of humans say is betterment might not be betterment for another group.

>>conscious states from suffering to joy.<<

Again, who's standard a paedophile experiences joy in his crimes a rapist experiences joy in is assaults, whos standard are we saying is joy. It seems to me without a "ultimate ruler" to measure all other lines to see if they are crooked, we could not know if the line was straight or crooked.

>>The Moral Landscape<<

The moral landscape is according to his standard ant what he thinks is morally right, thats just another form of subjectivism, he even states this in the book.

I think that my premises still stand that is:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
C. Therefore God exists

A brilliant refutation of Sam Harris's moral landscape can be found here:


Since I'm seriously limited by character count I'm going to skip to the main points brought up my Con. Unfortunately the ED was a bit of a side issue so I had to drop it.

1. Epistemic Certainty

For Con, every transcendent truth (essentially, every truth) needs to be grounded in God's existence. In other words, we humans could never be certain of the law of contradiction or even basic mathematical truths given that these truths "transcend" human minds and thus require a "transcendent" mind to realize them. I simply don't agree with this, and everyone has the potential to apply doubt to virtually every proposition. If you refuse to accept that 1+1=2 in a theistic world, but not an atheistic world since our minds are "limited" and incapable of knowing transcendent truths (I don't know why he assumes this) then I don't know what else to say. Mathematical and logical truths can be known through human reason. A limited mind can still have knowledge of "transcendent" concepts. As humans, we are capable of reasoning out truths about this world independent of the issue of whether God exists.

2. Betterment/Happiness vs. Suffering

How does Con know that God is good? If it's not betterment for another group then it's not betterment. Betterment is defined as improvement. Con makes no substantive criticism with this point. Con then puts up a straw man claiming that my promotion of joy over suffering exonerates rapists and criminals. This deserves nothing more than a two word response: Net suffering. Rape and assault victims suffer tremendously and the experience can have far reaching consequences. Society is much less safe is individuals are allowed to perform these crimes scot-free.

3. Can humans have moral knowledge?

Con says no. In fact, Con doubts all knowledge that we have and claims it all would be vacuous in a God-less world. Luckily, I do not have to convince him. My argument is very simple: Humans are capable of reasoning out moral truths about the world independent of whether or not God exists. Even as vague as terms like "the well being of conscious beings" - we can already discern certain truths. Science was is not epistemically routed in God's nature, is it therefore false? The field is science is testimony to man's ability to discover truths about this world, and lays forth a framework for doing so. If someone is unable to accept the scientific framework the conversations there.


In conclusion, there will be no convincing Con but I feel there is hope for those who believe that all truth claims need not be routed or "validated" by some supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful divine being. As soon as we can admit that humans are capable of moral knowledge independent of God's presence, Con's argument falls apart. Once we have taken our epistemic faith out of a celestial dictator and into the scope of human reason, my argument about moral knowledge being routed in "the well-being of conscious beings" becomes much more plausible.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
Oops, sorry, affirming the consequent is a common misinterpretation. Yours is just an egregious lapse in judgment, such that you should consider it complement that I had not originally thought you capable of it. Since these concepts are elementary, as you would have it, it should not be very hard for you to understand that premise 1 is a contingency statement, such that it expresses a causally contingent relationship. Consider the following, similar deductive argument:
1. If Fred does not exist, his son does not exist
2. Fred's son exists
3. Fred exists

It's necessarily valid because premise 1 is causal-contingency statement. This is VERY elementary, and it would be beyond sad if prominent philosophers like Craig, Nietzsche and others forgot it.
Posted by tarkovsky 5 years ago
"He's not affirming the consequent as the second premise denies the consequent."

Strawman. I never said he was affirming the consequent, I said the truth functional value of the argument is determined by the antecedent not the consequent. Therefore, by supplying only information about the consequent, we can arrive at no conclusion as to whether or not the antecedent is true or false. To positively assert anything about God's existence based on the existence of the existence of objective morality does not follow from the premise. God's non-existence is the necessary condition for the non-existence of objective morality. This is, obviously, not the same as saying the existence of objective morality is a necessary condition for God. Nothing whatsoever is said about any necessary conditions for God, only about the necessary conditions for objective morality.

It would do well for you to brush up on your logic as this is pretty elementary.
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
He's not affirming the consequent as the second premise denies the consequent.
Posted by tarkovsky 5 years ago
Christapologia's initial argument was utterly fallacious. It was an easy conditional. The conditional's truth functional value is determine by the antecedent ALWAYS, never EVER the consequent;

Cases in which the conditional is true Cases in which the conditional is false
T &#8658; T T &#8658; &#8869;

Think of it this way: If I raise my hand the teacher will call on me. If we assume this is true then in every instance where my hand is raised, the teacher will call on me. However, what if I'm misbehaving in class and the teacher notices this bad conduct, it could very well be the case this compels her to call on me as well. In other words, as the general schema explains, by simply asserting the positive truth functional value to the consequent, absolutely nothing is said about the antecedent.

In other words, just because objective morality exists, it could be for an entirely different reason, the conditional doesn't make it necessary for the antecedent to be true. It would have to be a biconditional for this to be true.

Pro won by default.
Posted by Doulos1202 5 years ago
I believe this can be a tough thing to discuss. The question is not can an atheist be moral without God but can an atheist justify morality without God? An atheist can be "moral" without believing in God but has no foundation for his or her morality. If the argument can be made that there is an objective moral standard for then it would follow that it comes from transcending lawgiver above our authority.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Double_R 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter to massvotebomber
Vote Placed by MassDebator255 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: vio con dios
Vote Placed by Cerebral_Narcissist 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con fails to establish any of his contentions. At no point does he show how objective moral values exist, and assuming they do he fails to show how this confirms the existence of God. As he fails to meet the most basic burden of proof arguments goes to Pro by default. Everything else tied. Very strange debate.